Obama’s national security team

Al Jazeera profiles the men and women Obama has chosen to help shape US policies.

Much is expected from Obama’s new team [Reuters]

Barack Obama, the United States president-elect, has unveiled more of the new and familiar faces he will take with him to the White House next January.

He introduced five members of his national security and diplomatic team and confirmed his choice of attorney-general.

Hillary Clinton, nominated for secretary of state

Hillary Clinton, who lost her battle to become the nation’s first woman president, is now set – pending confirmation by the US senate – to be the next US secretary of state, the latest step in a remarkable political career.

Clinton, right, has been criticised for her
hawkish statements [GALLO/GETTY] 

The New York senator and former first lady has promised to “reach out to the world again” following eight years of the Bush administration.

She can already count on widespread support overseas thanks to the Clinton reputation during the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.

However, many in the Middle East are likely to remain sceptical, following her decision in 2003 to vote in favour of the Iraq war, a vote she later distanced herself from but that proved highly damaging to her campaign.
Clinton was also heavily criticised for hawkish comments on Iran in which she said that, if made president, she would “totally obliterate” Iran should it ever attack Israel.

Robert Gates, nominated for defence secretary

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has built a 40-year career in national security that has seen him win praise from Democrats and Republicans.

Gates has won rare praise from both
Democrats and Republicans [AFP]

The 65-year-old, who became defence secretary in 2006, rose through the ranks of the Central Intelligence Agency to become director by 1991, having also crossed over into policy with postings at the National Security Council.

His tenure at the Pentagon has been marked, some say, by pragmatism and a modest, low-key demeanour, which served to set him apart from Donald Rumsfeld, his combative predecessor.

Gates, who came to the job from the presidency of Texas A&M University, has eased strained relations with senior military officials, the congress and US allies in the wake of the turbulent Rumsfeld era.

He shares Obama’s belief that more troops need to be sent to Afghanistan to fight the “war on terror”, and has also called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.

But he has seemed at odds with Obama’s stated policy on withdrawing US troops from Iraq within 16 months.

General James Jones, appointed national security adviser

Barack Obama’s choice to be national security adviser is a Vietnam war veteran who rose to become a marine four-star general and commander of Nato.

General James Jones advised both Obama and John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, during their presidential campaigns, on national security issues.

“Jones works friendly until friendly doesn’t get it done anymore,” said retired army Lieutenant-General Jay Garner, who first met him on a 1991 relief operation in northern Iraq.

“And then you’re dealing with a great big guy you really don’t want to be on the opposite side of.”

The 6’5” Jones, who grew up in Paris and is fluent in French, became commandant of the Marine Corps in 1999.

In 2003, he was briefly a candidate to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Rumsfeld, but declined to be interviewed for the job because of Rumsfeld’s management style, journalist Bob Woodward reported in his book State of Denial.

Susan Rice, nominated for US ambassador to the UN

Susan Rice, who has been nominated to be the new face of the US at the United Nations, is a former member of the National Security Council and assistant secretary of state to the US diplomatic team.

Rice has been highly critical of George Bush
over the Darfur crisis [GALLO/GETTY]

She joined the Obama team early despite her long-standing ties to the Clinton administration and worked as a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama’s campaign.

Rice has also served as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs and she was the top US diplomat for African issues during the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

However, she may well come under some fire from politicians for her part in US policy towards Rwanda during its 1994 genocide, when Bill Clinton’s US administration was condemned for staying on the sidelines.

Rice has been a vocal critic of George Bush’s handling of the crisis in Darfur.

Janet Napolitano, nominated for homeland security secretary

Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona, has been picked by Obama to take over one of the US government’s most sprawling and controversial departments.

Bill Clinton appointed Napolitano as a federal attorney in 1993 and she was elected Arizona’s first female attorney-general in 1998, 15 years after first moving to the state to practise law.

She was an early supporter of Obama and is known for being tough on Republicans.

As governor she set career records for vetoes as she battled with the Republican-led legislature over spending and illegal immigration.

The 51-year-old has fought to curb illegal immigration, but has been sceptical that building a fence along the US-Mexico border will solve the problem.

She once said: “You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder.”

Eric Holder, nominated for attorney general

Eric Holder was deputy attorney-general under Bill Clinton and has been a senior legal adviser to Obama.

Holder is likely to face questions over his role in the pardon of financier Marc Rich [AP]

Holder, who was the first African-American to hold the deputy attorney-general position, has served at nearly every level of the US justice department and was appointed a superior court judge by Ronald Reagan, the former Republican president.

He earned a reputation for being tough on crime, and in 1993, he became the first African-American appointed as a US attorney in Washington DC.

In his first major case in 1994 he was instrumental in convincing Dan Rostenkowski, a Democratic congressman, to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud.

Though widely respected by lawyers in and out of government, Holder is expected to face tough questioning in the senate about his role in the 2001 pardon of Marc Rich, who had spent years on the run from tax charges.

The pardon provoked protests and a congressional investigation and Holder later publicly apologised for what he called a snap decision.

Source : Al Jazeera

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